Archive for the ‘music’ Category

Walking in Memphis

June 13, 2012

Just back from the land of the delta blues, and of course this song’s on a loop in my head. Obviously.

Sing a simple song

August 20, 2011

Just before time to pick up the girls yesterday I was seized by one of those recurring grips of musical nostalgia that I seem more prey to, lately, since the grungy and irresistible Used Books & Music emporium showed up down the street.

So that’s where I found myself at a quarter to three, picking urgently through the CD bins. (One of these days I’ll take the ultimate music nostalgia plunge, for a guy of my seasoning, and come home with vinyl… even though I presently have nothing to spin it on.) My mission: fill the 5-disc changer in my Corolla with some of the oldies & goodies I used to play on the hi-fidelity 8-track in my Dodge Dart, c.1973.

Mission Accomplished! And in almost no time at all, with credit to spare. It’s there in my wallet, awaiting the next sentimental wave.

So there I was in McKay’s parking lot, transported by a handful of compact discs right back to that first driver’s seat in the waning days of Nixon, imagining myself about to tool up I-70 to UMSL with my freshly pressed Driver’s License, my state of the art Pioneer 8-track, and Sly & the Stones imploring me to “sing a simple song.”

Being sixteen had its moments. Happiness, if that’s what you want to call it, isn’t always such a complicated affair. The girls couldn’t understand my illegal smile in the hook-up line, straight from the Dart and in precisely the following sequence. But someday they will.

“Won’t get fooled again,” again

June 18, 2011

While Younger Daughter shoots hoops in Kentucky (they made her play three games yesterday), the rest of us took the opportunity to dine out on cuisine she would veto. Over our Chana Masala, Palak Paneer, and Masala Dosa the subject turned to music. What did Mom and Dad listen to, when they were Older Daughter’s age? (I’d just heard Robert Siegel raise the same question.)

Well, the Way-back Machine revealed some pretty impressive answers: the top pop music of ’72 continues to impress. Don Maclean’s American Pie, Bill Withers’ Lean on Me, Melanie’s Brand New Key, Neil Young’s Heart of Gold, the Staple Sisters’ I’ll Take You There…

And just one more Weiner joke is timely here: Chuck Berry’s My Ding-a-ling. Really. Everything old is new. But was that his last hit? What a silly sad note to go out on. Glad it’s not the murmur they sent to the stars to represent good ole’ rock & roll. Johnny B. Goode was better. “Send more Chuck Berry.”

But honestly, what was I listening to the most in ’72? What was in my 8-track? Beatles, mostly. But also this, which Older Daughter happens to have just discovered. It was on her iPod on the way home last night.

Remembering summer camp

June 17, 2011

A week of sleeping behind heavy hotel curtains has messed with my inner clock. Chicago was fabulous but it’s good to be back on my morning perch, which I confess required some mechanical assistance to find this morning. I might have slept in again, but for the obligation to run Younger Daughter to her Louisville-bound bus. It’s departing promptly at 7, hauling her and her teammates to basketball camp.

That’s got me straining to recall my own fading memories of sports camp. Baseball, of course. It was 1970, in Chandler, Oklahoma. Three weeks of eating, breathing, and sleeping a child’s game as though it were life itself. Former pros were running it. Am I confabulating when I seem to recollect collaborating with a fellow camper there one afternoon in pitching a no-hitter? Probably. But that’s the art of the memoir, especially when there’s no one but the memoirist to challenge the “facts.” Who says I’m not entitled to my own?

Anyway, I know one thing for sure: a very popular song on the radio that summer– might have been #1 on Kasey Casem’s Top 40 Countdown– was “Ride Captain Ride” by Blues Image. May not be worth remembering, but it’s a fact. The tune takes me right back to Oklahoma.  Isn’t time funny?

I’m in here somewhere, I think. I know it’s in me:

I was a happy camper in Oklahoma. Came home and made the all-star little league team.

Camp in North Carolina a few years earlier, that’s another story: poison ivy, poisonous worldview. Came home and lost my religion.

here it comes

February 24, 2011

We have an exam today in Intro to Philosophy, and the first midterm report presentations. Two* will be on the Fab Four. In their honor:

*From Brad (#10) and Andrew (#15).

You never know what you’re gonna get, in these pop culture & philosophy reports, but some possibilities revealed by a peek at the table of contents include the lads’ critique of consumer culture and quest for authenticity, Paul on love, the ethics of chemically-induced altered states (but aren’t all states of consciousness chemically-induced?), Eastern metaphysics (“life goes on within you and without you”), skepticism…

Other reports today: The Atkins Diet and Philosophy, co-edited by last year’s MTSU Lyceum speaker Lisa Heldke (“What does the low-carb revolution mean for our lives, our most fundamental values, and our place in the cosmos?… new insights into major philosophers such as Dewey, Nietzsche, and Marx by means of Atkins” – Jasmine); the NFL-Patrick, #14– (I may have to recycle an old post on the subject, or at least recommend this piece by Malcolm Gladwell, or “This is your brain on football“)– and Justin on Pink Floyd (#15):

What does the power of great art have to do with madness? Should psychedelic drugs make us doubt the evidence of our senses? How did power, sadism, and conformity turn education into mind control (not that we need either)? Can a rock band keep its identity as its members change? What can we learn from the synchronicities between The Dark Side of the Moon andThe Wizard of Oz? Did Friedrich Nietzsche foreshadow Syd Barrett? When did you realize that you are the hole in reality? How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat yer meat?

Today, STUDENTS, we’ll sign up for Daily Questions to carry us through the rest of the semester. If you’ve not done one yet, be sure to sign the dotted line today. Coming next week, in addition to our regular READING ASSIGNMENTS (O 40-57 on Tuesday, PW 51-69 on Thursday):

House (Brandon, #10); Taylor on Harry Potter (Why isn’t the Mirror of Erised adequate for real life? Does prophecy rule out free choice? What can dementors and boggarts teach us about joy, fear, and the soul?); Nhu on Groundhog Day; Nick on Star Wars; Tabethia and Dalorian on Hip Hop (#10); Pete on Lord of the Rings; Warren on being neither her nor there (??); Lanna on Dexter (and not Facebook); Spurgeon on Calvinism (#14); Lindsay on Radiohead (#15); and more. Can’t wait!

If anyone does Jimmy Buffett I hope they’ll not repeat the faux pas of the student who last semester announced that he really didn’t like Buffett’s music at all but just couldn’t find any of the other books. He didn’t know that I’m one of the contributors to that particular volume.

Someone asked what I would advise anyone who found themselves in that situation. Well, I advise not waiting ’til the last minute to find that out. That’s not what I call the “porpoise-driven life.”

music lessons

August 5, 2010

School’s about to begin again, our girls have less than two weeks of their carefree endless summer left to spend.

So, naturally, it has just occurred to them both that they’d really like to get serious now about learning to play guitar and piano. I was dispatched to the hot, dank, dusty attic to retrieve the neglected Casio keyboard for Younger Daughter, and badly out-of-tune string sounds began to emanate from Older Daughter’s room. Later we visited World Music, at their insistence, to see about lessons. It’s an impressive operation, much more alluring than my old piano instructor’s ’60s living room. They’re enthused.

Good for them, growing up in Music City and finally infected with the spirit of “Musica.” I hope it won’t dampen their enthusiasm when we swing by school to pick up their textbooks.

I have no room to complain about their procrastination, with my own summer book project lagging and now in competition with class prep. Today I shall write syllabi.

Some of us get a lot done in summer. Others spend the better part of it figuring out what seems worth doing. Mr. Bennett says the time will be provided. We’re counting on it.


May 23, 2010

We were out late last night, S & I, with James Taylor and Carole King.

I was going to pull the blog-plug on myself this morning and begin taking Sundays off, but their fantastic reunion performance– first one in the Bridgestone Arena (they call it now) since the flood– is too much on my mind this morning. I’d gag, not to mention it.

We never miss JT when he comes to town, and we both used to wear out our Tapestry LPs, on our respective monaural phonograph players. What a show. What a treat.

And, btw, reports of downtown Nashville’s demise are greatly exaggerated. The old town was hoppin’, with locals and tourists alike. Too bad about Opryland, but it was great to see the Ryman back in business across the street with its original  Grand Ole’ Opry franchise. Tootsie’s and the other joints on lower Broad were spilling into the streets too.

JT commented, after Carole sang about getting up every morning with a smile on your face and before he did “Shower the People,” that those two numbers are “hymns for the agnostic.” Pass the plate, brother.

They did a triple encore, closing finally (just like last week in Hollywood) with the wonderful and, from the vantage of years, elegiac “Close Your Eyes.” You can sing this song, when I’m gone… But they’re definitely not gone yet.

happy ending

December 17, 2009

Today Happiness 101 officially ends, with the final exam. Flunking that would be sort of like failing at life, no? Fortunately no one in our group is in any danger of failing at either, so far as I can tell.

Music, laughter, and inspiration can change the world, says Mark Johnson. Or at least make you smile. My view: enough smiles can make a person happy, and bring some of the change we’re playing for.

Happy holidays and a merry new year, all.

NOTE to Happiness 101 students, in case you missed my little swan song on our last regular class day: Thanks for so many fun, provocative discussions. I hope some of them made you happy (or got you to think about it), they certainly did me. My concluding word (not that anything really has concluded, that we may conclude in regard to it): find your warm puppy, whatever that may be for you, and “walk” it daily. And if you must be a pessimist, try to be a cheerful one.

As Mr. Keillor says: Be well, do good work, and keep in touch. Happy trails!


November 18, 2009

As noted in Monday’s post, in The Birth of Tragedy Nietzsche related “the spirit of music” to the frenzied Dionysian revel, immediate and intense and beyond the verbalizing/conceptualizing intellect… and said it it is  a necessary complement and counter-balance to the classical, restrained, objectifying “Apollonian” impulse.

On this view music, more than any other form of art, taps a deep and unconscious well of human instinct. While we’re enthralled by the music we’re reconciled to nature and our fellow humans, in a selfless dream state that sometimes may slip into pseudo-intoxication. Music is a drug, a trance, possibly a natural route to transcendence.

Study the faces in the crowd at a concert where the audience is really into it . (You can’t quite do that if you’re into it yourself, but there’s plenty of concert footage on YouTube you can study from the detached vantage of your computer.) Those faces reflect the wild abandon, the ecstasis,  that Nietzsche celebrates as “Dionysian.” For a time there is no self-conscious individuation, all are happily submerged in the music. Those of mystical inclination might even agree with Nietzsche’s claim that in this state, it feels as though the veil of illusion has lifted and reality is fully present, in the raw. It may not be “orgiastic” in the Dionysian sense, but I’ve heard interesting reports from Bonnaroo— and more interesting stories from Bonnaroo’s ancestors. (But only stories, I was just a kid in the “summer of love”).

Daniel Levitin, author of This is Your Brain on Music and The World in Six Songs: How the Musical Brain Created Human Nature, thinks music is a key that unlocks many mysteries, too, and an engine of human evolution.  It’s definitely not just “auditory cheesecake.” But he would agree: it’s ok not to load your personal experience of music down with too much heavy import and analysis. Just listen, and enjoy. Here he is in a brief but snappy Canadian interview:

And here he is in a long, less snappy talk at the Google-plex:

burn the bridge

August 23, 2009

Last time I wandered Vanderbilt campus at dusk, to spend a pleasant hour on a pretty day before the curtain rose on another Middle School musical production, I had it pretty much to myself. Not last night. It was Move-in Day, everywhere you turned Dads were lumbering under the weight of dorm-sized appliances and the other necessities of  collegiate life, and officious Moms were directing them. Lots of kids too, many indistinguishable in years from their younger counterparts across the street. There was a mix of apprehension and anticipation in those faces, and exhaustion. I looked to them with anticipation of my own: that’s us in a few short years. As Millie sings, baby will soon be coming home no more. (Well, ’til Fall Break anyway.)

And as for the show, set in the ’20s but more evocative for me of the Mad Men ’60s (with young women aspiring not to careers but to husbands, “modern” meaning heartless and materialistic) : it grew on me over three days, and I might as well surrender to the viral music that won’t leave my brain ’til I replace it. It was fun. Younger Daughter, you were a great “stenog.” And then we got to celebrate Grammy’s birthday with her at the Cheesecake Factory on an almost perfectly autumnal evening. She couldn’t remember the last time she was serenaded at a restuarant.

Fall’s still very agreeably in the air this morning. George Santayana was right: “To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring.” Or summer. We all really should get back to school.